One major difference between Slovenia and Iowa is the number of people, young and old, using bikes as primary modes of transportation. Over the course of a normal day, our group has seen hundreds of people pedaling through their daily grind.
One reason for this is Slovenia’s overall support of bicycling as a form of transportation. As these photos indicate, facilities here are well designed to direct bikers to their proper place in the transportation infrastructure. This commitment to the upkeep of facilities – pavement, signage, signal lights and bike racks – makes it possible for Slovenes to safely commute to work and leisure activities by bicycle.
Here, we also observe that car drivers yield at every point of potential conflict with bikes. Each time our group has crossed roads, we have the right-of-way without exception. Its pretty difficult to imagine this happening in Iowa.
This pro-bike setup in Slovenia is part of its national carbon reduction strategy – a wise choice. Not only does the plan make sense form an energy and carbon standpoint, but it also helps Slovenes can get and stay in better physical shape.
Slovenia is a place where people want to live, and in the long run its planning will make for enormous savings in health care costs.
We will be paying a large and long-lasting bill in our Iowa and the U.S. if we keep paying little heed to our citizens’ health.
But this is not to say that we haven’t made progress in Iowa. The addition of bike lanes on Ingersol Avenue in Des Moines is an excellent recent example for some success. But our municipal leaders and planners need to engage more more aggressively on these matters. And communities in Slovenia and elsewhere in Europe exemplify how it works!
As always, you can hear even more news from the tour on David Osterberg’s blog for the Des Moines Register.